Saturday night, May the 28th, 2016 could very well be a day that haunts Oklahoma City for years to come. The Thunder had the reigning, defending NBA champion Warriors reeling with a chance to deliver the final punch of the fight.
Klay Thompson had other intentions.
Then Steph Curry showed the world why he was named the first ever unanimous MVP this season by coming up big down the stretch to extend the Warriors record-breaking season.
Now basketball fans everywhere get to talk about the two greatest words in all of sports: Game 7.
Monday night the Warriors will host the Thunder and the winner will advance to the NBA Finals for a matchup with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Regardless of who wins the West, the NBA Finals will be one for the ages.
Game 6 was any and everything basketball fans everywhere could ask for. The game featured the greatest single-game, three-point shooting display in postseason history. Klay Thompson made an NBA playoff record 11 three-pointers in route to a 41-point outing when his team needed him the most. Thompson is always the Robin to Curry’s Batman, but tonight he showed he can play the lead role, too. He was the biggest reason the Warriors were able to keep within striking range before ultimately coming away with a 108-101 victory to force Game 7.
Curry did not look like he had enough in the tank to will his team to a Game 6 victory. It looked as if the Thunder had things under control and would advance to face the Cavs. Oh yeah, that was until he flexed his MVP-muscle and sealed the deal. He didn’t have the best shooting night, shooting 8-21 and 6-13 from beyond the arc. A couple of those threes came late in the game. He also finished with 10 rebounds and nine assists.
One more thing about Mr. Curry, he came up with two late steals on inbounds plays by the Thunder. Ironic after some interesting post game comments and chuckles from Russell Westbrook after Game 5.
For as great of a night Thompson had and for as great as Curry was down the stretch, the game really came down to the poor play of Oklahoma City’s two superstars. The two combined to score 57 points, but shot 20-58 in the process, including 1-13 from three. That is absolutely ridiculous in the biggest game of these two star’s careers. They had a chance to close out the defending world champions, but a lot of old habits reared their ugly heads down the stretch, when it counted the most.
During the final three minutes of the game, Golden State outscored Oklahoma City 12-2 and committed zero turnovers to the Thunder six. During that final three minutes, the dynamic duo combined to have more turnovers (6) than shot attempts (3). For two of the top-five players on the planet, that is absolutely pathetic. Two of the biggest stars in the NBA faltered in the biggest game of their basketball lives. Now it is a game of chance in an anything goes, street fight in Game 7 Monday night. So there is definitely a chance to redeem themselves for last night’s debacle down the stretch.
This could be one of those games that really makes a mark on these two’s careers when it’s all said and done. Both want more than anything to win their first championship, but this collapse and bad play in the most crucial of times could prevent them yet again from competing for the NBA championship.
Let’s not forget to give credit to an unsung hero for the Warriors, Andre Iguodala, who came up with big-time defensive plays against Durant and Westbrook during the final three minutes.
Oklahoma City won the rebounding battle 49-43, including 16-12 on the offensive glass. Some of those offensive rebounds came off air balls, the hardest defensive rebound to grab. The Thunder dominated the paint 52-28. However, the biggest category, the one that decided the outcome of this game was the three-point shooting.
Including Thompson’s 11-three pointers, the Warriors shot 21-44, 47.7% from downtown compared to an egregious 3-23. To put that into more of a perspective, Thompson and Curry combined to shoot 17-31 from three-point land while Durant and Westbrook shot 1-13. That is a 48-point differential and that is why the Warriors were able to take advantage of the costly Thunder turnovers and force a Game 7.
The four superstars were the focal point of this epic game and for various reasons. Thompson kept the Warriors afloat until Curry knocked down big-time, MVP caliber shots. Durant and Westbrook shrunk in the biggest moments of the contest.
So who is the pressure on in Game 7? The easy answer would be the Thunder due to how Game 6 played out. However, I see it a bit differently as I think the pressure is still on Golden State. Remember, Golden State had to win three consecutive games against the Thunder and still have one game left to win. Everything is on the line for the Warriors as they followed up their championship victory by setting the NBA record for wins in a season. If they are unable to get past the Thunder Monday night, this season will essentially be a bust. Sure, they marked their spot in the history books, but it won’t be fully appreciated if they don’t win the championship.
Don’t get me wrong, the Thunder have to be feeling some pressure as well. They have to play a Game 7 on the road in Oracle Arena, home to one of the liveliest crowds in the NBA. They are coming off a terrible performance from their two superstars. Now, they don’t have to worry about the possibility of playing back in Oracle, but instead can focus on just that. If I was a betting man, I would bet a good chunk of change that we won’t see Durant and Westbrook play that bad down the stretch.
The real winner in all of this is the Cavaliers who get to watch these two teams tear each other limb from limb while also getting to rest.
I picked the Thunder to win this series in seven games before it started and I’m sticking with that prediction. Regardless of how Game 7 plays out, we as basketball fans get to witness a game that features such a high array of talented players that is for all the marbles. The two greatest words in all of sports will play out Monday night with a trip to the NBA Finals hanging in the balance.